Michelle Wilde Anderson at Harvard Book Store


The Fight to Save the Town:
Reimagining Discarded America

in conversation with DAN RIVERA


June 27, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes MICHELLE WILDE ANDERSON–professor of property, local government, and environmental justice at Stanford Law School—for a discussion of her new book The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America. She will be joined in conversation by DAN RIVERA—President and CEO of MassDevelopment and former Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About The Fight to Save the Town

Decades of cuts to local government amidst rising concentrations of poverty have wreaked havoc on communities left behind by the modern economy. Some of these discarded places are rural. Others are big cities, small cities, or historic suburbs. Some vote blue, others red. Some are the most diverse communities in America, while others are nearly all white, all Latino, or all Black. All are routinely trashed by outsiders for their poverty and their politics. Mostly, their governments are just broke. Forty years after the anti-tax revolution began protecting wealthy taxpayers and their cities, our high-poverty cities and counties have run out of services to cut, properties to sell, bills to defer, and risky loans to take.

In The Fight to Save the Town, urban law expert and author Michelle Wilde Anderson offers unsparing, humanistic portraits of the hardships left behind in four such places. But this book is not a eulogy or a lament. Instead, Anderson travels to four blue-collar communities that are poor, broke, and progressing. Networks of leaders and residents in these places are facing down some of the hardest challenges in American poverty today. In Stockton, California, locals are finding ways, beyond the police department, to reduce gun violence and treat the trauma it leaves behind. In Josephine County, Oregon, community leaders have enacted new taxes to support basic services in a rural area with fiercely anti-government politics. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, leaders are figuring out how to improve job security and wages in an era of backbreaking poverty for the working class. And a social movement in Detroit, Michigan is pioneering ways to stabilize low-income housing after a wave of foreclosures and housing loss.

Our smallest governments shape people’s safety, comfort, and life chances. For decades, these governments have no longer just reflected inequality—they have helped drive it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anderson argues that a new generation of local leaders are figuring out how to turn poverty traps back into gateway cities.

Praise for The Fight to Save the Town

The Fight to Save the Town changed my understanding of America. This insightful, narrative-driven book tells the story of four cities and towns with deep poverty and gutted public services. But in focusing on Americans who have committed heart and soul to their communities, Anderson weaves an ultimately hopeful story and delivers a blueprint for reform. This book pierced me and left me inspired.” —Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted

“When a region suffers job loss and poverty is a way of life, local government becomes an overlooked make-or-break player. Does it lay off needed workers, impose fines and get itself hated? Or does it draw on its people’s extraordinary leadership and find a far better way? Through vivid up-close portraits, Anderson gives us unsung heroes in four remarkable, turn-around communities—whom she calls ‘good teachers’ for the rest of America. Such an important read.” —Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land

“Regional inequality in the US has been overlooked for too long, and in The Fight to Save the Town, Michelle Wilde Anderson zeroes in on one of its most urgent aspects: the struggles of local government in the working-class towns and cities that are most defined by impoverishment. With empathy, analytical acuity and highly readable prose, Anderson tells the story of the places that have wrongly been left for dead—wrongly because they remain home to millions of Americans, including countless people like those she profiles here who are laboring day after day to improve their cities’ lot. Anderson helps us understand why the obstacles facing these cities are so enormous, but also shows us why we should have hope.” —Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America

Dan Rivera
Dan Rivera

Dan Rivera

Dan Rivera is President and CEO of MassDevelopment and served for seven years as Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Prior to his two terms as Mayor of Lawrence, Dan held various positions in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Dan is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served in the first Gulf War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and a graduate of the UMass Amherst and Suffolk University’s Sawyer School of Management, where he earned his MBA. Dan lives in Lawrence with his wife, Paula, and their children, Daniel and Charlotte.

Michelle Wilde Anderson
Michelle Wilde Anderson

Michelle Wilde Anderson

Michelle Wilde Anderson is a professor of property, local government, and environmental justice at Stanford Law School. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Yale Law Journal, and other publications.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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